In the Tristate region, manufacturing is the second largest private sector employer behind only health care. From the Jobs Outlook 2020 study released in 2012, there will be more than 18,000 advanced manufacturing job openings within the next 10 years. In May 2014, the Southwestern Ohio Region along I-75 with 27 counties stretching into Northern Kentucky and Indiana applied as the Southwest Ohio Aerospace Region and received a Department of Commerce designation as one of only 12 Manufacturing Communities in the U.S.
Despite demonstrated opportunities in manufacturing, the supply side of the manufacturing equation (workforce) struggles to keep up with demand (open positions).
The industry suffers from negative perceptions such as being low tech, repetitive, dangerous and an unwelcoming culture,
which impacts educational recruitment and the building of the talent pipeline. Although seven out of 10 Americans believe manufacturing is the backbone of the U.S. economy, only three in 10 parents would recommend their children to pursue manufacturing careers.
Locally, a focus group consisting of college-educated women all stated they would not advise their children, especially their daughters, to pursue technical careers. These attitudes coupled with a lack of understanding of advanced manufacturing of the 21st century direct potential young talent toward other industries.
These complex issues require comprehensive integrated strategies and collaborating stakeholders to reach solutions. No single organization alone has the ability to close the skills gap and develop the talent pipeline for manufacturing. It will take a regional approach with customized local programming utilizing a collective impact model. The solution must also be led and driven by employers with strong support from education, workforce development and other key stakeholders.
Throughout 2014, Partners for a Competitive Workforce, managed by United Way of Greater Cincinnati with major support from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and local funders, through the regional network of service providers have begun several innovative strategies to close the skills gap and develop the talent pipeline for manufacturing. These strategies include, human-centered design projects, programs targeting women, apprenticeship programs and a national marketing campaign designed to change the perception of manufacturing.
- PCW, Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board and OhioMeansJobs Centers of Hamilton and Butler counties are partnering to fund apprenticeship programs for welders and machine operators. Eight employers have agreed to sponsor eight apprentices in a competency-based manufacturing apprenticeship program.
- Local organizations are working together to uncover ways to increase the number of women employed in advanced manufacturing in Northern Kentucky and to increase participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning among children. This allows us to develop the talent needed now as well as begin to engage the talent of the next generation.
- Gateway Technical and Community College is offering the “Raise the Floor” initiative, designed by women for women. The 12-month training program provides training and certification in manufacturing. Women who complete the program may apply for a manufacturing job after just four months.
- The “Dream It. Do It.” program, sponsored locally by PCW, Northern Kentucky Industrial Park Association and TechSolve, is a national platform being used locally to change the perception of manufacturing and inspire the next generation of workers to pursue manufacturing careers.
Since the inception of PCW’s manufacturing work in 2009, more than 1,495 job seekers have obtained over 1,200 industry-recognized credentials. Now that the pipeline infrastructure is in place, it is the responsibility and best interest of ALL industry stakeholders to ensure young talent is attracted to and developed within the pipeline and available to meet industry needs.
Janice Urbanik is Executive Director of Partners for a Competitive Workforce
Stephen Tucker is Senior Manager of Industry Partnerships of Partners for a Competitive Workforce